BOSTON (CBS) – If you can’t wait to start your holiday shopping, the FBI wants you to be careful before you go online.

Related: Holiday Season Guide

“On Cyber Monday and throughout the holiday season, consumers are encouraged to beware of bargain e-mails advertising one day only promotions for recognized brands or websites. Fraudsters often use the hot items of the season to lure bargain hunters into providing credit card information. The old adage “if it seems too good to be true” is an easy indicator to determine if the e-mails are legitimate,” the bureau’s Boston office said in a statement Wednesday.

Here are some tips from the FBI:

• Log on directly to the official website for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.

• Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software and keep up with the security updates to prevent viruses and malicious programs from infecting your computer.

• Make purchases using websites with secure connections. Look for websites that use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) security which protects your personal information. Check the browser’s status bar for an unbroken “padlock” icon that indicates the sites’ using SSL.

• Use your credit card instead of debit card when making a purchase. Credit cards offer added protection from fraudulent transactions.

• Never use your Social Security Number to make online purchases.

• Use strong passwords. A strong password should include at least five letters and one number.

For more information on how to safely shop online this holiday season, visit the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

For more information on e-scams, please visit E-scams and Warnings web page.


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